The 12th Annual Director's Cuts Gift Guide

OK, you've bought Kanye West's best-selling album for your boyfriend, you'll stuff the Taylor Swift CD into your sister's stocking and you've downloaded The Beatles onto a new iPod for your mom and dad. What else is out there for the music fans on your holiday shopping list? Weekend Edition's Ned Wharton is back with the 2010 edition of his Director's Cuts Music Gift Guide.

Director's Cuts Music Gift Guide For 2010

Brothers

Next Girl

  • Artist: Black Keys
  • Album: Brothers

Here's the rock cd that's been wearing out my music player this year: two guys with a big sound -- guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney--a.k.a The Black Keys. On their latest CD, "Brothers," they're still rocking a gritty blues sound, with many of the cuts recorded in a place famous for 60's and 70's R&B: Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Sheffield, Alabama. The cinderblock building on Jackson Highway hadn't been used as a working recording studio for years, but Auerbach and Carney arranged to lay down some tracks in the space... "We went there for inspiration," says engineer Mark Neill, "and by God, we got it. In spades, and ghosts!"

Cover for Second Side

Twilight Curtain

  • Artist: Brandi Disterheft
  • Album: Second Side

In my annual music guide, I usually try to present albums for a wide range of musical tastes. At first, I thought this one would appeal to jazz fans, but I soon discovered that Canadian bass player Brandi Disterheft covers a much wider playing field. Other tracks have indie rock grooves, and on "Twilight Curtain" she serves up some smooth pop.

Cover for Pop Negro

Bombay

  • Artist: El Guincho
  • Album: Pop Negro

For the world music and alt-latino fan, my pick this year is from Spain--El Guincho's Pop Negro. El Guincho was born in the Canary Islands and now lives in Barcelona: his real name is Pablo Diaz-Reixa. Reixa has also moved in film and television circles, and contributed to the soundtrack of Woody Allen's "Vicky Cristina Barcelona." Diaz-Reixa says he used to play in punk bands but gravitated towards Brazilian Tropicalia and sounds from the Caribbean. In this track you can hear a hint of steel drums in the background.

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Song
Bombay
Album
Pop Negro
Artist
El Guincho

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Cover for Who is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin' About Him)

Who Is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everyone Talking About Him)

  • Artist: Harry Nilsson
  • Album: Who is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin' About Him)

Nilsson is perhaps best known for recordings of songs he DIDN'T write, including the classic hit "Everybody's Talkin'" from the movie "Midnight Cowboy," and his soaring tenor brings chills on the song "Without You." But Harry Nilsson did write plenty of his own brilliant songs including "Jump Into the Fire," "Coconut" and "One," which was a huge success in the 70's for Three Dog Night. In the documentary DVD, we learn about his friendships with the Beatles, songwriters Jimmy Webb and Randy Newman, and Monty Python alumni Eric Idle and Terry Gilliam. We also hear a lot about how Nilsson liked to party, a lifestyle that led to his death in 1994 at age 52.  Mickey Dolenz from the Monkees and comedian Robin Williams remember how you'd need to brace yourself when Harry called looking for a friend to go out on a bender.

Purchase Featured Music

Song
Who Is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everyone Talking About Him)
Album
Who is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin' About Him)
Artist
Harry Nilsson

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Cover for I Am Not

Keymaster

  • Artist: Janus
  • Album: I Am Not

Janus is a Brooklyn-based trio with Amanda Baker who plays flute, violist Beth Meyers, and harpist Nuiko Wadden. The group takes its name from the two-faced Roman god who sees both forward and back, and their new cd, "I Am Not" seems to point towards chamber music both past and future.

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Song
Keymaster
Album
I Am Not
Artist
Janus

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Cover for Gorecki Symphony No. 3

Lento e Largo Movement

  • Artist: Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Album: Gorecki Symphony No. 3
  • Song: Lento e Largo Movement

Also in the classical realm, this year we marked the passing of a composer whose music moved listeners deeply.   Polish composer Henryk Gorecki died last month at age 76. He was something of a one-hit composer, but that single composition was powerful: his Symphony No. 3, known as the "Symphony of Sorrowful Songs," was inspired in part by a prayer scratched on a cell wall in Gestapo headquarters during the Nazi era. This year, a  remastered audiophile edition of a 1995 recording was released from Britain's Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and conductor Yuri Simonov.

Purchase Featured Music

Song
Lento e Largo Movement
Album
Gorecki Symphony No. 3
Artist
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

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Cover for December Songs

Ave Maria

  • Artist: Sonos
  • Album: December Songs

This is a new release from the inventive acappella group Sonos. December Songs features seasonal favorites including "O Holy Night" and "I Saw Three Ships." Also on the CD is "Ave Maria," but not the one you're thinking of: this is by Sonos singer Priscilla Rachel Bearer.

This album is available from Amazon.

Cover for Welcome Yule: An English Christmas Revels

On Christmas Night

  • Artist: The Revels Chrous And Revels Children
  • Album: Welcome Yule: An English Christmas Revels

The late John Langstaff launched the Revels to celebrate Christmas and the Winter Solstice in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1971. But anyone's who's witnessed the Revels knows it's not just a stodgy stage performance -- it's more like a Renaissance fair with actors and dance and audience participation. The organization has grown quite a bit in 4 decades, and now there are Revels companies in 10 cities  -- this weekend they get under way in Portland, Oregon and Washington, DC. This selection, 'On Christmas Night' is from the Revels 40th Anniversary cd released this year.

Purchase Featured Music

Song
On Christmas Night
Album
Welcome Yule: An English Christmas Revels
Artist
Revels

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